Emily Taylor, despite being reunited with her husband from prison, becomes severely depressed with emotional episodes and suicide attempts. Her psychiatrist, Jonathan Banks, after conferring with her previous doctor, eventually prescribes an experimental new medication called Ablixa. The plot thickens when the side effects of the drug lead to Emily killing her husband in a "sleepwalking" state. With Emily plea-bargained into mental hospital confinement and Dr. Banks' practice crumbling around him, the case seems closed. However, Dr. Banks cannot accept full responsibility and investigates to clear his name. What follows is a dark quest that threatens to tear what's left of his life apart even as he discovers the diabolical truth of this tragedy. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In our pharmaceutically inclined society, side effects are ever-present hazards of prescription drug usage. Whether they are minimized in print, or spoken in a hushed tone at the close of television commercials, side effects have become a shady companion of prescription drugs. Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh's alleged final film, focuses on the consequences visited upon a young couple after the side effects from the wife's medication cause her to commit an alarming act. As the chasm opens beneath this young woman, her psychiatrist struggles with his responsibility for her predicament, and confront his lingering suspicion about his patient's state of mind.
Ever the auteur, Soderbergh remains delightfully unpredictable with this latest feature. Side Effects initially presents itself as an indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, wearing its heavy-handed message on its sleeve, but promptly converts into a psychological suspense thriller. Soderbergh stares you directly in the eyes while he rips the rug from beneath your feet, sending you spiraling toward a conclusion that is equally unexpected and pleasing. Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, The Bourne Ultimatum) channel Hitchcock, creating an in-depth narrative that remains unpredictable until its final scene.
Soderbergh is known for generating a positive film environment for his cast, and maximizing the actors' potential in his films. Although the cast for Side Effects is comprised of actors who have previously provided impressive performances, each actor presents a character that rivals any prior roles. Rooney Mara plays the young woman at the epicenter of the conflict. Mara is extremely engrossing, creating an aura of discontent and depression within her situation. She acts as the film's catalyst, holding all the characters together while prompting them toward their conclusions. Attractive, graceful, and erratic, Mara is the wounded girl who isn't all that she seems.
While the film's driving force is Mara, Jude Law is its principle focus. As Mara's overwhelmed psychiatrist, Law provides his most empathetic role to date. Law establishes a flawed character who struggles with the consequences forced upon him, and transforms into a protagonist worthy of our admiration. Law and Mara provide such intriguing characterizations, Soderbergh seems to have difficulty deciding which to devote more time to. The scenes they share are the most arresting in this film.
There are few things more satisfying than a film which receives little attention, but creates an unexpectedly entertaining experience. Though Soderbergh has billed Side Effects as his swan song, he confirms that he is a cinematic mastermind in a film that would be an impressive conclusion to an eccentric career. Indulge in this unconventional thriller; you won't mind the side effects.
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